Iphigenia in Aulis Characters


Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Iphigenia (IHF-uh-jih-NI-uh), the older daughter of King Agamemnon. The Greek prophet Calchas has revealed that Iphigenia must be sacrificed to the goddess Artemis to secure a favorable wind for the Greek ships becalmed on their way to conquer Troy. Agamemnon has summoned his daughter to Aulis, where the ships have been delayed, under pretext that she is to be married to Achilles. She appears as a very young and delicate girl, completely devoted to her father. She greets him with affection and gaiety, but the scene is pathetic and filled with tragic irony. When she reappears, she has learned that she is to be sacrificed, and she pleads with her father for her life. Her appeal is entirely in terms of pity and love, for at this point she sees the sacrifice as entirely a matter between her and her father. Agamemnon replies that he does not serve his personal desires but Greece and that Iphigenia must be sacrificed for the good of the Greek cause. He leaves and Achilles enters. Unaware at first of the use of his name to bring Iphigenia to Aulis, he has since learned of the truth and he has promised Clytemnestra, Iphigenia’s mother, to defend the girl; he appears to keep the promise. Iphigenia intervenes, however, for she has resolved to die. She is now the arbiter of the fate of Greece, and she will give her life to obey the will of the gods and to punish the barbarians who took Helen away. With a plea to her mother not to hate Agamemnon or to mourn her death, she leaves to go willingly to her sacrifice. She is the only person in the play who is blind to the weakness of Agamemnon; to her he is a great man, sacrificing her for the sake of Greece.


Agamemnon (a-guh-MEHM-non), the commander in chief of the Greek army. He is an ambitious politician but unsure of his own motives and in some respects a coward. At the beginning of the play, he writes a second letter to Iphigenia telling her not to come to Aulis, but his message is intercepted by Menelaus, the husband of Helen and...

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